Safira Lakhani

Top 30 Under 30 2020

As an architect-in-the-making committed to sustainable building and communities, Safira is working to save the world through design. Her commitment to development was instilled in her by her family and the larger Ismaili community.

About Me

Age: 27

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta

Currently Residing In: Edmonton, Alberta

Projects and Organizations

2017: M.Arch Thesis

Centred in Bamyan, Afghanistan, my master’s thesis, “The River is for Washing Carpets,” critiqued contemporary practices of liberal peacebuilding. It also studied the intersection between spaces for water and spaces for women, and how appropriate infrastructure for such spaces could empower community solidarity, environmental resilience, and sustainable peace and development practices.

2019–Present: Aga Khan Agency for Habitat – Design Consultant

I currently volunteer as a design consultant for the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, preparing design guidelines for sustainable housing strategies in rural mountainous areas of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. The impact of this project will be far-reaching: by engaging with the community and capitalizing on local materials and skillsets, the project will foster social, ecological, and economic resilience. More simply, this project reflects the notion that when their immediate physical environment feels safe, residents living in poverty can build a better future.

2016: United Nations Environment Programme – Environment Architect

Working with the Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2016, I gained experience as an environment architect. We developed a national planning document that outlined community-based climate change management, disaster-risk-reduction, and resilience planning strategies. I additionally supported the creation of publications such as the Eco-Tech Handbook and the NURI Pocketbook for Urban Resilience.

Other Affiliations: Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board, University of Waterloo

Which of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals resonates most with you?

As an aspiring architect, the Sustainable Development Goal I grapple with on a daily basis is SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities. Our built environment has a profound impact on all levels of the human experience. It consciously and unconsciously shapes and informs the way we think, speak, and behave. From the scale of simple shelter to global cities, architecture and urban design—especially when coupled holistically with ecology and infrastructure—offer a tangible means of addressing inequalities in the world today.

What change would you like to see in the world by 2030?

In ten years, I would like to see spatial justice prevalent in all aspects of the built environment so as to allow for a more equitable, just, and kind world.

What advice do you have for other young adults looking to get involved in sustainable development?
  • Find and research one thing that you are really passionate about; be specific in your search and continue to put yourself out there until you are exactly where you want to be.
  • Develop and understand your own core values and vision, and then find professional, extracurricular, and volunteer activities that are in alignment with them.

“Change begins with action.”     -Safira Lakhani

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